This article provides and understanding of the Dependant/Endearing and Self-Reliant/Independent Character Strategies of Body-Centered psychotherapy.
Traditional Name: Oral
Stage of Development: Oral (breastfeeding) stage (first 2 years of life).
Function Truncated: Support and self-support.
- unpredictable feeding schedule
- being left alone for a long time
- inadequate nourishment or support
The Dependant Endearing and the Self-Reliant are not able to take in nourishment because during their early development, nourishment that was available at some point, was no longer available.This often is the case when a second child comes into the picture, and the caregiver cannot provide in the same way for the child as before. A toddler does not understand why nourishment isn’t being provided in the same way, and thus fears disappointment and rejection.
This sense of abandonment gives the Dependant/Endearing and the Self-Reliant/Independent feelings of loneliness or emptiness. Because of this, these types become preoccupied with getting their needs met. They are afraid to ask for what they need because they are unsure they will actually get it. They use indirect language, often communicating in the form of questions.
Both strategies have formed from support being cut off, but they have reacted differently. This decision depends on many factors including the environment and siblings. Both strategies tend to become more reinforced throughout life.
The Dependant/Endearing was originally more of a female archetype because that is what the culture traditionally supported (women being needy and not showing anger). But since feminism came about, it is common for women to be the Self-Reliant/Independent type.
Dependant/Endearing Character Strategy
Traditional Name: Oral Collapsed
- represses longing
- pushes their needs down
- “The world owes me something.”
- “I need support; I can’t do it on my own.”
Relationships and Emotions:
- interested in having their own needs met
- are passive and expecting (rather than aggressive and demanding)
- gets support by being child-like
- may be irritable
- afraid to reach out, but like to take
- might give, but only with conditions
- can be clingy
- don’t not feel like they can do things themselves
- have sadness and longing
- chest is collapsed, causing shoulders to slump
- gives and impression that they are trying to hold themselves up
- body moves downward
- muscles are underdeveloped (child-like body)
- soft, low-tension body
- often thin
- weak arms and spindly or thin legs
- shallow breathing
- come across as if they are shrinking themselves (don’t want to take up space)
- more energy in the head than in the rest of the body
- are pleasing to be around (endearing) and not armoured
- express feelings (except anger)
- very affectionate
- good at listening (do well in the helping professions)
What They Need:
- to be able to take in nourishment, to be cared for
- to connect with their underlying anger
- to you know are on their side and that you will not abandon them
- to make decisions on their own and act on them
- feelings of gratitude from others, feeling bonded
- freedom their wants
Synthesis of the Dependant/Endearing Character Strategy
The Dependant/Endearing minimizes their needs and wants. They hold things in and are afraid to reach out, often getting irritable because they can’t ask for what they need. They still want their needs to be met, but expect the world to recognize and satisfy their needs without any effort on their part. They have an infantile attitude, not saying what they need, but feeling like they should get it. Often this arises in the form of complaining because they wonder why they do not get what they need.
Dependant/Endearing types are sweet and compliant. They may open up emotionally and are pleasant to be around, but they often become clingy and can find ways to hook others into fulfilling their needs. The Dependant/Endearing sees the other person as the caretaker or provider and does not usually give without conditions. Because they have experienced many rejections when they have attempted to reach out, they often tend to become bitter and feel what they do get isn’t good enough. They need to move from the role of the victim to acknowledging with what they do get
There is a bit of a refusal to grow up or to function fully in the world; this gives the Dependant/Endearing a child-like body that often gives off a vibe of neediness. They also refuse to fully take y in life, and this is seen in the breath as incomplete inhalations and well as incomplete exhalations.
The Dependant/Endearing tends not follow through with their ideas. They may seek help but use it poorly. They have learned the pattern of abandonment and abandon themselves as a result.
What a Dependant/Endearing Needs to Thrive
The Dependant/Endearing type may feel like they have some tragic flaw that makes them unacceptable to others. They have low expectations and are prone to becoming depressed. Dependant/Endearing types have a great need for warmth and support from others and try to get it from others to make up for their feelings of feeling empty, deprived, or hollow inside.
Using the joining principle can help when working with a Dependant/Endearing; finding a way work with them on something will help ease them into being able to learn to do things on their own. The arts are a great platform for collaborative work and once the Dependant/Endearing has the experience of making something in the arts experience they can move towards doing other things themselves.
Expressing their underlying anger (from not having their needs met) will give the Dependant/Endearing some sense of strength and power. The Dependant/Endearing can do very well in the world, especially in the helping professions since they are good listeners and empathetic in understanding what it is like not to have needs met. They can also do well in the arts or sciences when they can make good use of their creativity and intelligence.
Self- Reliant/Independent Character Strategy
Traditional Name: Compensated Oral
Defence: Refuses support and relies on oneself to meet their needs. Often seeks challenges.
- “I can do it myself.”
- “I will do it myself.”
- “I don’t need any support.”
- “love is conditional on performance.”
- exaggerated independence
- refuses support
- fear of being needy
- isolates under stress
- not rigid, but as if there is a layer of rigidity over a Dependant/Endearing body type
- well organized and not collapsed
- good looking, even
- very female in females and very male in males
- takes in full breaths, but does not exhale fully
- strong and abundant
- gets things done
- sincere and reliable
- caring, altruistic
- mildly charismatic
What They Need:
- to acknowledge weakness
- to accept support from others
- to get past being a workaholic
- freedom from challenge
- rest and relaxation
- to allow time for play
Synthesis of the Self-Reliant/Independent Character Strategy
Compared to the Dependant/Endearing, the Self-Reliant/Independent has less of a sense that the world owes them something (although it may still exist somewhere behind it all). They are more integrated and functional in certain ways and they are people who want to be in the world. They appear confident, having a strong body, often with wide shoulders. They give the impression that they are put together and capable of performing in the world; however, underneath there is a feeling that they can’t actually do it.
The Self-Reliant/Independent strategy usually develops because they have gotten praise for performing tasks, usually before they are fully able. Because they have received recognition for doing something, they believe that there are conditions around receiving love and their actions are what will get them love.
They are sincere people who want to help others, but the may not yet have figured out what other people really need or want, so it may not always appear that way; however, their intentions are good, they are not manipulative people.
They become independent at an early age, learning how to meet their own needs. They often seek challenges, and tend will approach difficulties on their own, refusing to accept support from others. Eventually the Self-Reliant/Independent may think that they do not have needs, but it’s not that they don’t have needs, it’s just that they don’t want others to know; they will not reach out even if they need something because they do not want to appear needy. They often isolate themselves when under stress. The Self-Reliant/Independent overcompensates by getting things done and going into workaholic mode.
What a Self-Reliant/Independent Needs to Thrive
When the Self-Reliant/Independent can learn to accept support, their narrative will begin to fade; they will no longer “do” because they think that they are weak, and they will also let other people in. To help initiate rest in a Self-Reliant/Independent, verbal cues such as “There is nothing that you need to do right now” and “Take your time” may be helpful.
Along with rest, the Self-Reliant/Independent needs a dose of play, they generally are playful people but they might not necessarily think that because they are so focused on working. The Self-Reliant/Independent may not readily accept support as their nourishment barrier is quite strong due to the strategy forming at a time when taking in nourishment was so essential.
To learn more about how we form character strategies and read about other character types please read the article Character Strategies of Body-Centered Psychotherapy.